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Child Exploitation
09/17/2009

Former Connecticut resident charged with child sex tourism

Individual travelled to Haiti to sexually abuse young children

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Douglas Perlitz, 39, a former Connecticut resident, faces seven counts of traveling outside of the United States to have sex with children, following an investigation by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Perlitz, who now resides in Colorado, was also charged with three counts of engaging in sexual conduct with children in Haiti.

A federal grand jury in Bridgeport, Conn., handed out the indictments on Sept. 15, and Perlitz was arrested by ICE agents at his home in Eagle, Colo., on Sept. 16. The indictment was announced jointly on Thursday by Nora R. Dannehy, U. S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and John Morton, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistant Secretary for ICE. Perlitz had his initial appearance in federal court in Denver and was ordered detained pending another hearing on Sept. 18.

Perlitz was the founder and director of Project Pierre Toussaint (PPT), a boy's school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. He was a Connecticut resident when he allegedly travelled to Haiti to sexually abuse boys. According to the indictment, over the course of several years, Perlitz had illicit sexual contact with nine boys who attended school at PPT. In order to entice and persuade the children to comply with the sex acts, Perlitz provided the promise of food and shelter and also provided monetary and other benefits, including cash, cell phones, electronics, shoes, clothes and other items. If minors refused to engage in sex acts, it is alleged that Perlitz would at times withhold benefits or threaten to expel them from the program.

According to the indictment when Perlitz was questioned by others as to why he permitted minors to sleep in his room, Perlitz attempted to conceal his sexual abuse of the minors by stating that it was common in Haiti for children and adults to sleep together, or he would state that the particular minor was having a lot of difficulty.

"Sex tourism victims are particularly vulnerable to predators who lure them with promises of the most basic of human needs then rob them of their innocence," said Morton "There will be no refuge for child sexual predators who believe that they may victimize children outside the United States. No place is too distant or too remote to escape the attention of U.S. law enforcement."

"This defendant is alleged to have used his position of power to manipulate and sexually abuse vulnerable boys for nearly a decade," Dannehy stated. "I want to acknowledge the diligent work of ICE, the agents involved in the investigation, and members of the State Department assigned to our embassy in Haiti. This case would not have been brought without their coordinated efforts, the resources they have devoted, and their commitment to seeing that justice is done."

The indictment alleges that in 1997 Perlitz obtained funding from a religious organization to found Project Pierre Toussaint ("PPT"). PPT provided services to children of all ages, most of whom were street children as young as six years of age. The staff of the intake center included American volunteers who received a small stipend for their work as well as Haitians who were involved with a variety of day to day operations including teaching, cooking, and driving. PPT continued to expand and in 1999 a residential facility, Village Pierre Toussaint (referred to as the "Village"), was added. The Village was staffed primarily by Haitians, but Perlitz was directly involved with the Village.

The indictment further alleges that in 2007, the 14th Street facility was established, which was a residential program for high-school age children who Perlitz claimed needed extra attention. Perlitz individually chose all of the children who resided at the 14th Street facility, which was a home where adults cared for them.

The indictment further alleges that The Haiti Fund, Inc. was incorporated as a charitable, religious and educational organization in Connecticut, and operated as the fund-raising arm of PPT

The indictment alleges that Perlitz took steps to control and manipulate the board of directors of the Haiti Fund to ensure that he maintained autonomy and control over all of the operations at PPT. Because Perlitz maintained exclusive control over PPT's operations and funding, he made it difficult for volunteers, staff members, or others to question his actions. Perlitz also utilized the fear of unemployment and the difficult economic situation in Haiti to control and prevent the Haitian staff at PPT from coming forward about the allegations of sexual abuse.

Finally, the indictment alleges that, after allegations of long-term sexual abuse by Perlitz surfaced in 2007, Perlitz used his relationship with a religious leader and influential board members to continue to attempt to conceal his illegal sexual conduct by causing others to manipulate, prevent and preclude board members in the United States from questioning any issues relating to Perlitz. As part of the concealment, it is alleged that a letter was sent to donors stating that the accusations against Perlitz were groundless. Also, it alleged that investigators hired by the board of directors were denied entry into Perlitz's room at Bel Air, and that two computers and other items from a safe in Perlitz's room were removed and returned to Perlitz in Connecticut.

This is an ongoing investigation and encouraged anyone with information that may be relevant to the investigation to call ICE in Connecticut at 203-773-2029.

The U. S. embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, also has established a telephone hotline for individuals in Haiti to call with information relevant to the investigation.

If convicted, Perlitz faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years and a fine of up to $250,000, on each count of the indictment.

U.S. Attorney Nora R. Dannehy stressed that an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial at which it is the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This matter is being investigated by ICE and the U.S. Department of State, Regional Security Office at the U.S. embassy in Haiti.

Dannehy and Morton acknowledged the critical assistance provided by the Haitian National Police Department, the Brigade of Protection of Minors, and the assistance of individuals who have come forward and to provide information to law enforcement. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Krishna R. Patel with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado.